I was sitting on the couch tucked off the main room. I was relaxing, while nursing my youngest and watching my oldest happily play with whatever toys happened to be at her disposal. That is when it happened, a seemingly insignificant phrase changed my thinking forever.
Up until that moment, I don’t know that I had ever thought much about the word “what”. It is a common word in the English language and, just as commonly, a response to an unheard question. It wasn’t until I happened to overhear a conversation take place between a few of my husband’s aunts that a new idea struck me. Perhaps I had been using this one, simple word incorrectly for a good portion of my youth.
Being of a different generation, I had never thought to analyse the word “what” before. It seemed I might need to spend a few moments thinking this over and organizing my plan of attack.
It seems the great debate lies in how we respond to adults or other people in authority. When someone calls our name, we yell out, “WHAT?!” Ouch! There in lies the rub….
To older generations of people, this response comes across as disrespectful and rude. We are not to respond with a callous shout, but to calmly say, “Yes, mom?” (Or whichever phrase appropriately applies.)
Hmmm… You mean for years I had been disrespecting people and I didn’t know it? (gasp) Now I felt badly. From that moment on, I made a point of putting that phrase behind me and choosing a better one instead.
It isn’t that the word “what” is bad, in and of itself, but if my choice of words comes across as disrespectful, I want to make a point in picking better ones. In this case, that seemed to be the case.
Some might argue that this is completely subjective and they would be correct. This might not be a problem for a vast majority of people. In our family, however, this seems to be a point of contention. Always willing to learn and always wanting to please, I knew this needed to be learned in our home.
So, as our children grow, this is a lesson for them as well. When someone asks them a question, they are supposed to respond with an appropriate answer, not by yelling, “WHAT?” across the house.
Personally, I’m glad I happened to overhear the conversation. It made a change for the better in my own life and in the lives of my children. While I understand this might not be a moral issue, this does further the relationships of those in our family and helps us all understand the importance of being respectful to others.
Do you have a preferred response when you call your children?
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord” – Leviticus 19:32